Firaxis On XCOM vs Xenonauts & Optional Kill-Cam

By Alec Meer on May 5th, 2012 at 5:29 pm.

As promised yesterday, here’s another chat with XCOM: Enemy Unknown lead dev Jake Solomon. Here it is – and it brings with it particularly glad tidings if, like me, you weren’t 100% convinced the slo-motion ‘glamcam’ killshots and 80s action movie soldier vocals were for you. Turns out we will indeed be able to turn them off in favour of quieter, interruption-free strategising. I’ll probably try it both ways (missus) to work out which I prefer in practice but I’m super-chuffed that we’re getting the option.

Also discussed – what he thinks about indie X-COM remake Xenonauts, chat about how to capture live aliens, how alien interrogation and research works, more on the game’s lethality, and to what extent the game will shape your advancement up the tech tree.

RPS: So, I have a question from someone you might have heard of. Are you aware of Xenonauts, your erstwhile rival?

Jake Solomon: They are not rivals! I consider them to be brothers in arms. I’m going to digress before you hit me, although if you call them rivals I’m a little afraid of what the question’s going to be.  But, what I would say is that I am actually kind of excited for them because if there was any way, whoever is on that team over there, you tell them that we seriously need to sit down and have a beer some time because I can only imagine the stories that we could share about trying to make a game like this. I’m sure they’ve gone through a lot of the development headaches that we have as well. But yes, what is the question?

This one's Xenonauts, not XCOM: EU

RPS: Right. Chris England, project lead on Xenonauts, asks ‘Why can’t you just die?’ No, no, actually his question was “I was wondering how they were going to keep things as lethal as it was before, where your troops are being mowed down left, right and centre?” So we know there’s perma-death in there, but how often and how easily does it happen?

Jake Solomon: It depends. Let’s say you were to play classic difficulty. My goal with classic difficulty is to have an experience that’s not about winning the game. That’s what classic difficulty is. I’m not saying that people won’t win that difficulty level, I’m sure they will, but that’s not what I’m intending with it. I guess that what I’d say is that because I just finished the game last night, and I lost twenty-two soldiers, which is a significant amount, and again I went on a mission where I lost four out of my six, and one of those had already been on twenty missions.

You can go to the memorial wall where you can see all the guys who have died, and it tells you how many kills they had, how many missions they went on, what operation they died on. It’s actually pretty cool because we just put this in too, when you go to the memorial it’s sort of this UI screen and the camera’s looking at the bar, and as more guys die, you start to see these blurry pictures filling in on the wall behind the UI, and then there’s more and more shot glasses in front of the memorial.

RPS: ‘Oh god, what have I done’…

Jake Solomon: Exactly, and I don’t know why this is, but love going there. And the guy at the top is the guy who’s been with me on twenty missions, I think he was the captain or something like that. So yeah, lethality’s still there. It’s definitely from a design standpoint, it’s really, really tricky balance-wise because when you have six, losing one soldier is not quite a mission breaker, but at the beginning of the game when you have four, you lose one soldier and you’re now down twenty-five percent, if you lose two soldiers you’re down fifty per cent of your squad. That really turns the missions around.

I actually haven’t found that to be a negative; it’s the sort of thing where when you lose someone that’s been with you for a while you have the emotional resonance in that moment, but then also tactically, it really really ramps it up when all of a sudden your front line assault soldier keels over, and then you’ve got a bunch of wounded guys left and you know there are still other aliens out there, so…

At the late stage, if I play through and I just saw the bodies start racking up and I was like ‘oh this is good, I’m glad this is working the way I intended.’ A player does still lose units and they still lose very, very senior units, and you just can’t predict the battles. Things just go poorly sometimes and some guy takes two shots and maybe he had the best armour and he was racked up but he still was one of the guys who fell, and so I can promise that experience is still there in the game.

RPS: I wondered if maybe there was more of a focus, because you’ve got less guys in the field, on making sure they don’t get into harm’s way at all, and it gets a bit zero sum. If they do they’re basically dead, so the onus is on you to be thinking, planning all the time how you can stop them even getting into the line of fire.

Jake Solomon: It’s definitely true, and there’re some pretty punishing things. I actually just pumped up to the Beserker that we showed you recently. I actually just pumped him way up because he appears with Mutons, so design-wise I gave him a mountain of hit points, and he’s the inexorable death, right?, so he’s like marching towards you, and when he appears you’re like ‘Well, we’re ranged units, he has to get over here first, but if he does it’s the end of the line. If he gets in close he will kill anyone he gets close to.’

RPS: There’s a particularly horrible bone crunching noise if he does, as I recall from the demo.

Jake Solomon: Exactly. So what happens is that, when he appears, he is like a Terminator, so when you see him you completely change your tactics and you’re like ‘Everybody must put every round that they have in this guy’ because you can’t spread out too far. ‘We basically have one turn to take this guy out before he gets next to somebody because if he’s next to somebody, they’re going to die.’

Now that’s just a melee unit. Tactically, flanking is extremely valuable in XCOM so if you were to ever get flanked by an alien, that increases the damage that they’re going to do and so it’s the sort of thing where you really have to be careful when you don’t know where the aliens are, or when you do know where they are, you have to make sure positioning is really important. You don’t want to get in too close to the aliens because then it’s much easier for them to move around and get the flank on you. When they have the flank on you oftentimes it ends very, very poorly. And it is kinda nice because there aren’t a lot of cheap deaths, there are a lot of deaths but they aren’t cheap. It’s the sort of thing where it makes it easier as a player to say ‘Well, I’m not going to reload’ because you’re like ‘Ok, I knew, I moved there, I moved in too close, the guy was able to flank me’ or ‘I ran this person way ahead of the other guys, and with his last move he runs into this Cyberdisc.’ And you’re like ‘Well, it’s kinda fair when you do that, he doesn’t have support with him, that’s kinda how it goes’.

RPS: Rookie soldier, rookie mistake, eh? One thing I wasn’t personally quite so sure about in the stuff I saw was the glam cam, I know you guys really like that yourselves, and the soldier barks…

Jake Solomon: I was wondering when you were going to ask me about that. Yes? Now how did you put that: ‘there was something that I wasn’t quite as excited about’. I like that. What you’re asking me is ‘can I turn that off?’ Is that your question?

RPS: Heh, you’ve gazumped me. I’m fine with it being in there, I’d just like to have the option to turn it off if I want a quieter ‘I don’t want to be distracted, I just want to get my head down and solve this problem’ kind of session.

Jake Solomon: You have the option to turn that off. You also have the option to turn off soldier voices.

RPS: Hurray! Then everyone’s happy.

Jake Solomon: (laughs) I made sure and cleared that with Casey, my lead programmer. I was like ‘Look!’ I knew this was going to come up. ‘I’m talking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun this morning, can I tell them that we have the option to turn off action cam and turn off soldier voices?’ You can ask him, I told him that this was gonna come up. He said ‘Yes, you can tell them we have that option.’

Actually, let me tell you about something else we have. I played through the entire last game, we have an option in-game currently where you can hide enemy health and you can hide damage that you do, and that was something that people had brought up. In the original of course you had no idea how much damage you did, you had no idea how much health the enemies had and so we added that and that’s how I played this last game. It’s actually very different. You can’t say like ‘oh this guy can take this shot because he’s guaranteed to take out that alien there if he hits’, so it’s interesting. That’s also an option we’ve added is the option to turn off enemy health and any sort of damage tech so that the player can play a little bit more in the dark like the original.

RPS: That is a nice idea because it was like ‘If I’ve got this one shot, A: I’ve got to hit, B: it’s got to do enough damage, what the hell is going to happen?’ It’s proper scary so it’s nice to have that option.

Jake Solomon: And you do, you use one of your best soldiers and you’re like ‘Well…?’ You don’t know if you did a critical hit, which in the original game was just, the damage could do up to 200%, that’s sort of the same thing that we do but we just have a name for it. Without the damage, without the enemy health, you’re like ‘Ahhh.’ When you get to the really big aliens you’re like ‘I have no idea if that guy has three more turns in him, or if he’s about to fall over.’ So it actually creates these frustrating in a fun way moments where you’re like ‘do I really want to waste my sniper shot on this guy, or is it the sort of thing where I could pull out a pistol and do him in?’

RPS: Or you’ve only got one shot, you want to take out something that’s maybe smaller but you know it’s definitely going to fall over; at least there’ll be one thing off the battlefield instead of just one guy slightly eroded.

Jake Solomon: Right, that’s exactly right. It’s basically a question of ‘how much damage is coming into my guys’ next turn?’ It’s a better chance to take out somebody who’s weaker but without the health up you’re kind of in the dark a little bit.

RPS: So if you do have that stuff on is it going to reflect what gear, what armour and weapons the aliens have got, or is it pretty much fixed per species?

Jake Solomon: No, actually some aliens at different points they will carry different weapons, so generally they stick to a particular class of weapons, but the Mutons in particular, they actually will change their weapons. That’s the sort of thing that you can either get by, you can look at them, I suppose you could zoom in and look at them, see what weapon it is, but also capture is a big part of the game as well, just like in the original, making sure to capture them.

I don’t know that I’ve ever talked about this before, but in our game the aliens don’t leave their weapons behind. When they die their weapons self-destruct but if you capture those aliens, then the weapons don’t self-destruct, and then you can research those. Not only is it critical to say ‘look, we want to know,’ you can find out a lot of things by having a friendly chat with these guys, but part of it is crucial to player progression, because if you really want to get your hands on some of the great weapons you’re going to have to send some poor bastard in at close range with what we call the Arc Thrower. I never liked the small stun launcher in the original, I always liked that real terrible moment of ‘get in there with the stun rod’ and that’s basically what we have, we call it the Arc Thrower but it’s basically ‘get in there and pray to God when you pull this thing out that the alien falls over’.

RPS: It was definitely some of the most dramatic moments, you’ve just got to walk right up to them,  zap them with this little cattle prod and cross your fingers.

Jake Solomon: And we’ve tried to make that even more rewarding. It really is one of those moments that when you see it, you get jolted with the electricity, and tactically you want to wear them down first because the fewer hit points they have, the easier it is to stun them. If you’re facing off against a big old Muton, you’d be filling him full of holes, and then at some point you’d be like ‘Alright, I think it’s good, go in there and stun them now’. So the guy runs in there, pulls out the stun gun, uses it, and you’re just praying to God, because you’re an inch away from this guy, you’re praying to God that he falls over, but if he does, you’ve now captured his weapon, which is the only way that you can get those really, really awesome weapons. So it’s a big reward.

RPS: Sounds like catching Pokemon.

Jake Solomon: (laughs) It is a bit, they’re turn-based, it’s the same thing. Basically the same thing. We’re going to be huge in Japan.

RPS: Has there been balancing stuff in terms of restricting or delaying access to research-critical stuff like the Arc Thrower? In the original, it takes a while before you’ve got all the kit and facilities you need to actually capture an alien, so you can’t go and immediately capture a lot of stuff and maybe have a big advantage quite early.

Jake Solomon: Well, it’s the sort of thing where I don’t want to control that too much, I mean we thought about that, we thought about, balance-wise, should we hide the alien weapons in the tech tree to where it’s like ‘well, you kind of need to look into how the aliens generate power first’ and then we thought ‘that’s not fun.’ You have to gate it a little bit because you don’t want the experience to be ruined, but first you have to build the Arc Thrower, you have to build the alien containment facility, so that’s actually also a fun thing too.

In your base, whoever it is you brought back last, you can actually go down there and look at them and there’s your scientists kind of standing around, looking at the alien containers and taking notes, and there’s this big Beserker behind the glass pounding on the window.

RPS: ‘Press ‘X’ to waterboard?’

Jake Solomon: Right. Then there’s a Quicktime Event to interrogate them. No, I’m just kidding. I’m kidding! That was a joke.

RPS: I’ve got my headline! Brilliant!

Jake Solomon: (laughs) Quicktime revenge. We wanted to make it more modern. There’s a Facebook Quicktime online component…

No, the idea is that in order to research that, before you’ve researched any advance weapons, if you wanted to, the minute you bring back let’s say, one of those alien weapons, you could research that. You’re going to have to have resources, our research tree requires not only do you have to have the item itself but you’re going to have to have some resources that go into the research. So it would be gated a little bit by that, but you could do it fairly early, and you could bypass other types of weapons if you wanted to jump into alien weapons. You could do that, but that’s a major cost because they take a long time to research.

So unless you really blitz the research in terms of depending on what continent you start on, what rewards you go for, you could get a lot of scientists early. It’s just like anything; if you do that, you’ve given up engineers, you’ve given up cash, and so you could get alien weapons early. That’s the kind of stuff that as a designer I’m so excited to see, somebody’s going to be like ‘Here it is, this is the shortcut, it breaks the game, you can do this, this and this…’

RPS: The XCOM speed run is probably inevitable.

Jake Solomon: But I’d rather have more open systems, which isn’t to say that there aren’t some gating mechanics in the game, but I think you get into trouble in a game like XCOM and strategy games in general if you try and gate the experience too much. If you try to craft the experience too much, one: it doesn’t feel re-playable and two: as a player it just feels fake. If the rewards are too metered it feels like you don’t have the freedom to craft your own experience. So we decided to leave them like the instant you capture an alien and their weapon you could start in on that.

RPS: In terms of research, is it a fixed linear tech tree , or branching? You could have gone down human or you could have gone down alien, say.

Jake Solomon: No, it’s a big, big tree and what we’ve tried to do is also, speaking about interrogations, in the original there wasn’t as much value sometimes in autopsies and interrogations. They were awesome narratively, but there were techs that actually wouldn’t grant anything, and so one thing we did was we made sure that every tech grants something. It has to grant something.

The way that actually works, there is something like that, but we have the actual alien tech, and that’s what your scientists work on. In addition to that, there’s a facility called the Foundry, which is almost like an engineering tech tree, and so when you build that, that’s how the player builds SHIVS, which are the tanks in our game, and that’s sort of like an engineering focused thing like ‘Oh, here’s improved pistols’ or ‘Here’s the different types of SHIVS’ and here’s all these things, and so that is in essence a tech tree.

And then of course you have the Ops which is almost like a soldier tech tree, but it’s pretty flat, I don’t want to misrepresent it, it’s more like upgrades for your soldiers. And so we have these different facilities, one: you have to build the facility, and then two: you’re never going to be able to do everything unless you just really stretch out the game. So it’s the sort of thing where on my last game, I wanted to, I set out being like ‘Oh, I’m going to do a bunch of engineering stuff, I’m going to build a bunch of tanks.’ I just never got around to it, just because resource-wise I didn’t spend it on all the tank upgrades.

So the science tech tree branches in all kinds of different directions, but at the end of the day you could conceivably map out the entire tech tree if you really took a long time. And based on what bonuses you got, you could conceivably do the entire tech tree. So it’s not an either/or thing, but then when it comes to the Foundry and the tech tree, you have to make choices about what you want to spend your resources on.

RPS: Ok. So you’re expecting people to replay it then?

Jake Solomon: Oh yeah.

RPS: Thanks for your time. Again.

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110 Comments »

  1. caddyB says:

    This reassures me.

    • Bfox says:

      How many copies can I put you down for?

      but yeah, I like what I’m reading too.

    • sPOONz says:

      Mmm… Im not so sure. My interest is there as its an Xcom remake but its design is opposite to what I’d have liked. Too ‘cartooney’ for instance. Xenonauts looks bang on what I’d hope for in an Xcom remake. It has a darker mood, the artwork is fantastic and appears less gimmicky. Hopefully a demo will be available on release for me to try. Xenonauts is a definite buy provided reviews are ok. This Xcom remake however, I’m just not so convinced.

      • pkt-zer0 says:

        Too ‘cartooney’ for instance.

        I dunno. If you look at the original X-COM’s intro or general art style, a dark comic book-y sort of thing is what they were going for. This is a decent implementation of that in 3D, I’d say.

        • sPOONz says:

          Yep, I would agree. I was saying that I preferred Xenonuats design direction, it has a maturer sense about it. I do think that although the original was cartooney on appearance, once played you get quite a dark, sombre atmosphere. It would be very interesting to see if the Xcom remake captures that also. I think Golden Hawk picked up on it and has taken that feel further in their artwork.

          • nxzicwd says:

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    • killias2 says:

      Yeah, the tone of this interview was definitely positive. If they’re actually taking this mindset to design, and not just using it as a mask to hawk the game to RPS, then I think this will turn out well.

      In any case, this is SO much better looking than that shit FPS. The naysayers seem to forget that this game is aiming to be a ~80% remake of the original.. rather than a 1% or 2% remake. If you really require something closer to the original, there’s always Xenonauts. I’m glad XCOM and Xenonauts are taking different approaches, as it means I’ll be able to more fruitfully explore both options.

  2. Wrench says:

    Every interview that i read makes me more expectant about this games release.
    I think this is shaping up to be my most anticipated game of the year!

    • Snargelfargen says:

      It sounds amazing so far. Solomon’s comments are pretty insightful, especially what he had to say about “fun” deaths being due to player error, not random chance, and the focus on open game design allowing shortcuts for inventive players.

      This could be a lot of fun to replay with different tactics, parts of the tech tree or even game rules like not showing enemy health.

  3. wodin says:

    Can’t wait. Sounds really good in it’s own right.

    • Khemm says:

      Key words: “in its own right”, well said. I’m looking forward to it, but as an X-Com inspired game, not an actual X-Com sequel.

    • Continuity says:

      I’m not so sure, probably unlike most people here I have played xcom recently, and the two mechanics that Firaxis have stripped out I.e. the strategy element of multiple bases (pretty much the only reason to have a geomap) and the throw-away nature of your troops (i..e send 14 into a terror zone and be happy if 6 make it back) are absolutely essential to the “xcom experience”, so key in fact that I’m not sure the game even works without them.
      I cant help feeling that Firaxis are lovingly crafting a lemon.

      • Weed says:

        I agree to a degree. I wouldn’t say it was key to the experience, but there were definitely times where all the noobs in the mission were on the forward lines opening doors, etc.

        The one base limit. That is just too bad. One base might do research and another manufacture and I would always be shipping stuff back and forth or between several bases, and all of them had soldiers, etc. Establishing more bases was another indicator that I was doing well in the game.

  4. MrMud says:

    The problem with having a game where you start with 4 people and 6(?) are the max is that each death is so devastating that you are encouraged to reload to prevent it. In X-COM soliders were to a large degree expendable.

    • Reefpirate says:

      I did plenty of reloading in the original X-COM… It didn’t always work though, because I might have ended up losing more guys on the second try. Eventually you just try and go with the least amount of losses. At least that’s how I played, and perhaps the same could work out with this game.

    • Grape says:

      MrMud’s got it right.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      The problem with having a game where you start with 4 people and 6(?) are the max is that each death is so devastating that you are encouraged to reload to prevent it.

      Just turn on ironman mode, problem solved.

      Mwahahahaha.

    • Lemming says:

      Is that actually a problem though? Or does it add the the drama? ie those emotions you feel about your soldiers dying might not be good ones, but they are part of the experience they are going for, right? if you reload, then yeah I guess you miss that, but that’s down to the player, really.

      • Consumatopia says:

        I think this is a general problem with level based games in which doing really well on a level means you have more resources available on the next level. If you just barely squeaked by a level, that means the next level will be much harder. It almost certainly makes more sense to just reload.

        • DougyM says:

          In terms of wanting to ultimately be as successful as possible then yes it makes sense to reload but it cheapens anything you actually achieve.

          For example when i first got into Football Manager i would reload and replay a game if i lost it badly, or my star players got injuries or suspensions that would have made the rest of the season much harder. What it did was serve to weaken any joy i got from actually legitimately winning because i knew for a fact that i had abused the games mechanics in order to pretend that i was better at it than i really was.

          In games that encourage you to build your own story for each different play through i now force myself to never reload a game. Just recently in Football manager one of my players broke his leg and was out for 8 months. I ended up having to sell him because he lost a lot of stats while out injured and i simply could not afford to keep a bystander sitting on my bench taking up space and wages. It was a kick in the balls but the season after this the player i signed to replace him ended up scoring several key goals on my way to winning the Champions League. It was by FAR more satisfying than any of the times i reloaded saves in order to win trophies or avoid terrible injuries etc.

          Same goes for other RPG styled narratives, if i got someone killed in Mass Effect i dealt with it and moved on rather than reloaded.

          • Consumatopia says:

            The part that you missed is “If you just barely squeaked by a level”. Assuming that each level is harder than the previous level, if you just barely squeak by then you’ll get absolutely crushed when you start the next level under-resourced.

            A football game or a non-hardcore RPG like Mass Effect aren’t what I’m talking about here. Take something Hydorah. I would get game over like fifty times on each level (I’m not a great shmup’er…but Hydorah was awesome enough to struggle through). Eventually, if I complete a level on my last life with no power ups remaining, it would make no sense for me to save at that point–if I just barely, after a week of playing, completed a level, then starting with nearly nothing there is basically no chance I would ever be able to complete the next one.

            To put it another way, if I’m already reloading from saved games when I lose a level, how is it any more “cheap” to reload when my victory is pyrrhic?

    • BloodyHoney says:

      I’m less keen on reloading and more of a fan of fighting a mission to it’s conclusion and salvaging what’s left.
      Sometimes that means failing a mission though, but that only means game over in X-Com at the very end.

      • Calabi says:

        That is a problem in most games. I think Dwarf fortress has a saying that “failure is fun”. They should try to make failure as fun as possible.

        Like newspaper, or just general reports of your failures. I hope you can retreat from missions as well. You could get a commendation for the most tactical withdrawals.

  5. KeyboardGato says:

    is there an estimated release window for this?

  6. Unaco says:

    This is, still, looking and sounding fantastic. Sounds like they really are trying to capture the spirit of the original, while bringing it forward significantly. All the best to them, and hope they pull it off.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      It really does feel like they’ve sat down to pre-empt any bitching or griping that could be done by fans of the original (or just whiny gamers in general) on release doesn’t it? If I was a dev I’d be tempted just to stick a ‘press X for menu’ prompt in just to be a troll.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    Optional Kill-Cam

    Yes, thank you.

    My other question, which I’ve never found/seen an answer to, is whether there will be “hidden movement” (aka fog of war, so you can’t see every movement the aliens make if they’re outside your line of sight)… When the recent Jagged Alliance didn’t have it, people got kinda pissed.

  8. mckertis says:

    In Front Mission you could field 8+ robots, easy. In Front Mission 2 as well. Then in Front Mission 3 the limit became 4. The maps became tiny. The strategy disappeared. In Front Mission 4 they fixed it and upped the limit to 7. Good for them.
    In X-Com you could….*skipped*

    • SoggySilicon says:

      Good observation. The two largest design changes I have seen with Xreboot is the TU to a CP system (ala. Valkyyria Chronicles), and the squad size. This (for me) indicates a shift from macro squad management to micro squad (individual) management. It also indicates smaller map sizes, and in some respects a tighter game from action “thingy” to action “thingy”.

      Similar to what one may experience by playing Civilizations on the console as opposed to let’s say, Civilization or Civ II. In one sense I suppose one could say that the I.P. is being liberated from it’s niche appeal. On the other hand it does fundamentally tinker with the mechanics and nature of the core game itself. Which in and of itself relied heavily on the tension of “hurry up and wait”.

      Xenonauts (to me) is fundamentally closer to the original, and looks to add new content and context to the game, not take things out or change things to liberate the I.P. from it’s niche appeal.

      It’s not just Xcom though, look at games such as Railroad Tycoon, or Master’s of Orion… heck most of the SSI, Microprose, and Origin games that “created” the PC game marketplace are emblematic of the emergence of the digital platform converting board games into digital iterations.

      Optimally (I) would of liked to have seen a Xenonauts spirited game with the Xreboot financial and technical support. THAT would of been (to me) the best balance. But shit in one hand and wish in the other… buy em both I suppose. They will both be good, just in very fundamentally different ways.

  9. UnravThreads says:

    The top image sold me straight away.

  10. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I never played the original but the more I hear about it, the more I like the sound of it. It seems like the devs are putting a lot of consideration into every area.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Okay, so. Drop whatever you’re doing and go play the original X-COM.

      NOW.

      • John Connor says:

        Is there a version we can play which is sort of up to date, running in high resolution on Windows 7 with more than one button’s worth of mouse support? Sort of like the Corsix Theme Hospital upgrade: http://code.google.com/p/corsix-th/ ?

        I would love to play a lot of these old games I never played, but wrestling with the interface is something that will make me Alt+F4 pretty quickly.

        • ichigo2862 says:

          Not really. It’s a really old game and this remake is as good an upgrade to the original as we’re going to get. It runs on Win 7, but requires DOS Emulation via DOSBox or some other means. The GOG version comes packaged with DOSBox automatically, I believe.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        Nope. Still have to complete Half-Life 2 for the first time (sigh).

    • LionsPhil says:

      Likewise. I missed the original, and this sounds like it should be a good point to correct that.

      Also, y’know, fun on its own merits.

    • arccos says:

      Is there any way to clean up the interface for the actual missions in the original? Maybe an increased resolution mod or something? The interface is pretty tough to muddle through sometimes, with trying to figure out who has moved, who hasn’t, how far they can get and still fire, etc. I guess a lot of that is limitations of the era and the lack of a fully 3d engine.

      Also for me, the fights get pretty tedious when you’re hunting down aliens and crawling along step by step with my 8 mans split into squads of 2 or 3, checking every room. Does that get better or is there a trick to that?

      • Skydancer says:

        That’s the natural consequence of a) alien panicking and hiding to save his ass or b) alien bastardness to cover up and try to pick off everybody that comes after him. I lost many men to the little pricks.

      • Strangerator says:

        If you are having trouble keeping track of who has moved, use the icon that has a “crossed-out” person icon with an arrow pointing to another man icon. This says basically, “I’m done with this soldier for this turn, select the next one.” Makes things a bit easier, and prevents you from having to click each soldier to select him (which has caused many an accidental move in my experience).

        As far as curing your boredom with having to proceed carefully to find hiding aliens, I recommend taking the nearest portal back to the early 90′s and memory-wiping yourself clear of modern gaming conventions.

        Then you will truly enjoy the game as intended.

      • Elmar Bijlsma says:

        Strange, so many people repeat that they disliked scouring the map.
        I rather liked that very aspect. Methodically clearing a house room to room was always pretty tense for me, not a boring chore. The suspense of rounding the corner: Were you going to see a sectoid? Would he see you first?
        And you could never get sloppy or you risked get a heavy plasma burst in the face. That sort of tension made the game such a big hit with me.

        • Torgen says:

          My SOP later in the game was “Not a terror mission? Load up two rocket launchers and two “pack mule” rookies, and level the level.” :D

  11. Palehorse says:

    I can’t stop reading these. I was sold on the game basically at the announcement, and I should go dark now, cut myself off from all news and just wait it out. But I can’t. I keep reading.

    It’s safe to say this is my most anticipated game of the year, all platforms.

  12. Lacero says:

    My anticipation for this is up there with Deus Ex:HR and Skyrim. But more so.

    Everything so far sounds awesome. Please don’t get it wrong.

  13. S Jay says:

    Oh my, this is looking very very promising.

  14. boywithumbrella says:

    Up until now we’ve only seen screenshots with console interface. Which leads me to the question: will we be able to (quick-)save during missions? Or will it be a consolified checkpoint-system (or just outright only full mission-restart)?

    Sorry in advance if it has been mentioned and I missed it….

  15. Haphaz77 says:

    I’m so looking forward to this too. Sounds like Firaxis are doing great work.

    By making weapon captures dependent on alien captures, it implies that funding Xcom will not be so dependent on carboot-sale-ing alien kit. (I wondered who would keep buying dozens of alien corpses and guns without clips in the original). Hopefully I won’t feel the need to capture every alien going to rack up cash – maybe the World Funding Council will be more important? But given Jake’s answers to all the other questions, I’m sure this has been properly thought about too.

  16. Deadly Habit says:

    Imagine if the optional kill cam was like the one in Sniper Elite V2…
    Having that focus shot castrate some unsuspecting grey across the map with his alien gonads popping in x-rayed glory… mmm
    Ok I’ve been playing too much Sniper Elite lately

  17. Lemming says:

    Action cam will be staying on for me.

  18. codename_bloodfist says:

    But will I be able to romance any aliens?

  19. buzzmong says:

    Wow, one part of that *really* worries me:

    They’ve noticed that having enemy health and damage done shown takes away from the tension of the game in a quite large amount yet they’re seemingly still going with displaying that information being the default state?

    That really worries me because it makes me question what else they’ve changed which results in the game being much easier and less tension filled.

    I do however applaud the Cannon Fodder-esque visual log of your dead dudes, with increasing reminders of things that’ve gone wrong.

    Edit: I’ve been playing Xenonauts recently, barring an annoying saving/loading bug regarding research, it’s come on leaps and bounds. Chris seems like a stand up guy as well and happy to chat about things on the forums.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Conversely, rather than such options being a sort of concessionary, dismissive nod to people stuck in the past, the designer has been playing the game that way, and grokking what makes that design decision/option fun. So it does sound like getting the harder, tenser experience will be possible, rather than just more hitpoints and some features turned off which the game was never tested to be playable or balanced without.

  20. LionsPhil says:

    That’s the kind of stuff that as a designer I’m so excited to see, somebody’s going to be like ‘Here it is, this is the shortcut, it breaks the game, you can do this, this and this…’

    This. Guy. Gets. It.

    • arccos says:

      Agreed. That was probably the best thing I heard in the entire interview. That, and “… you get into trouble in a game like XCOM … if you try and gate the experience too much.”

      A strategy game that’s actually solvable in multiple ways makes it really, really interesting, and you don’t HAVE to use those tricks if you don’t want to. Yes, it breaks the game, but as long as someone isn’t likely to stumble into it on the first playthough, why not give the player a way of feeling clever for figuring it out?

      • Skydancer says:

        And anyway, to get the tech you have to survive against it first, which could be quite a challenge if you are behind with research yourself.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Agreed. I’m so glad to see a designer focused on fun more than excessive balance. Finding exploits in the systems of games is one of my favorite pastimes, and it bothers the shit out of me that so many devs are focused on polishing the fun right out of a game. If I wanted to put my Gambling stat all the way up in Fallout and win all the goddamn time, I could do that. If I wanted to steal stimpaks from every guard in the Hub, quickloading each time they caught me, I could do that too. Those aren’t flaws, but features. Glad someone understands that.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I agree.

      Now if they only “got” that seeing gamepad interface shortcuts on screenshots gives many a PC gamer the creeps. :p

      That goes for RPS, too!

  21. Njordsk says:

    Gertrud schultz sounds…. sexy. Or not.

  22. Drake Sigar says:

    “In your base, whoever it is you brought back last, you can actually go down there and look at them and there’s your scientists kind of standing around, looking at the alien containers and taking notes, and there’s this big Beserker behind the glass pounding on the window.”

    I’m drooling. Seriously, this, the antfarm base, the memorial bar, what’s not to love? Classic mode all the way for me, I want to fight a hopelessly lost war and not be able to turn it around.

  23. Torgen says:

    SO, the Berzerker is this game’s version of the Chryssalid?

    Fucking Chryssalids.

    (they *gotta* be in there, don’t they? :( (

  24. PoulWrist says:

    I get more excited with each of these interviews and stories :o game sounds like it could be one of the great ones to me.

  25. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    Could you let them know they misspelled “squaddie” in that first screenshot?

    Sincerely,

    Former QA person

  26. wuwul says:

    The big question is: after they managed to ruin the Civilization franchise, are they going to ruin X-COM too?

    • equatorian says:

      Wait, when was Civ ruined? Civ5 is a lesser game than Civ4, but it hasn’t by far turned into a laughingstock of the genre yet. It’s just a predictable result of having a designer from the ranks of ‘competitive game’ mod makers; more hard edges and game system thinking, less of the gentle curvy misleading siren lures that leave you up at 4 in the morning. Still not ruined.

      (I’m saying this as someone who barely played Civ5 at all, thanks to being mostly a slow-game not-necessarily-trying-to-win pacifist player and Civ5 not liking my playstyle.)

      • MD says:

        I’d be interested to hear more about this. I haven’t played Civ V yet, but the main complaint I’ve heard is pretty much the opposite to yours: http://www.garath.net/Sullla/Civ5/whatwentwrong.html

        • equatorian says:

          I skimmed through that (didn’t completely read, sorry, white font + black background = MY EYES) and it didn’t seem to be…that different? System-wise, we share much of the same complaints. We’re focusing on entirely different parts of the game, sure, but my main complaint was that experience-wise Civ5 was too much of a *game*. You have to think about it like a game and have spreadsheets in your head about costs and benefits, and game the system somewhat to make up for the system’s shortcomings. It asks you to play to win, and kind of penalizes you for not doing so because the diplomacy system is even shittier than 1+2. When I play Civ…well, yeah, the first times through, I play to win, but otherwise I play just to have an evening setting up a civilization I’d love to see and watch the world tell its story, without setting specific goals. I love growing my cities, all of them, which to be honest isn’t a great way to win Civ4 on higher difficulties. To do so, you’re kind of required to think of the game system instead of ‘I want to build a library in Innsbruck and oh look let’s add some musicians to Vienna’. Civ4 lets you do that. Civ5…er, not so much. THIS is what the Global Happiness/Penalties/Diplomacy/Civics systems in Civ5 did to me, experience-wise. Other people’s mileages may vary.

          tl;dr, I play Civ as a civilization sim with simplified rules. Civ5 asked me to play it as a strategy game. I can totally do that, but it won’t last as long with me.

          Still not a bad game. As far as 4x goes, it’s pretty good. Civ4 was just *too* good.

    • Ostymandias says:

      While Civ V might not be as good as Civ IV, let’s not forget that IV only got really good with Beyond the Sword. I am having high hopes for Gods and Kings, which is looking really good so far.

      • LionsPhil says:

        let’s not forget that IV only got really good with Beyond the Sword

        Why would I want to remember a blatant untruth? IV was great from release. The only Civ it struggles to compare with is SMAC, and that’s like saying that you might not be as great a theoretical physicist as Stephen Hawking.

    • pilouuuu says:

      Civ Revolution was closer to ruining the franchise and even that wasn’t that bad and as it was just on they toy boxes I’ll just pretend it never existed. Civilization V is good.

      • killias2 says:

        I never played the console release of Civ Rev, but the iPhone release was damned addicting. It’s actually one of the few things I really miss with my Android.. there’s no decent Civ. Sure, there’s a release of FreeCiv, but the interface just doesn’t even come close to comparing.

        Civ Rev for iPhone was simplified, streamlined, and dumbed down, but, God damn, it was a great game to have on your phone.

    • jaheira says:

      How can you “ruin” a franchise anyway? Just because you didn’t like Civ 5 doesn’t mean you stop liking Civ 4 does it?

  27. pilouuuu says:

    This sounds better and better all the time!

  28. Silvermarch says:

    I really like what they did with the Floaters, now imagine what a modern Chryssalid would look like in Firaxis’ imagination.

  29. Moraven says:

    So no getting 4-6 people blasted by a launcher then retreating with what you have left?

    awww

    Either way, I look forward to this and Xenonauts.

  30. Jimbo says:

    I wanna turn the kill cam up to 11. I’d turn on Bloody Mess kill cam if I could – alien intestines all over the damn screen. Intergalactic war is hell.

  31. RegisteredUser says:

    What would be sweet is that instead of not getting any clue at all when you turn off hitpoints is just getting a decent visual state update as you shoot away at aliens.

    I.e. things pop open, limbs get hurt or taken off, that kind of thing.

    Which reminds me, do we know if there is _any_ kind of “aiming” yet? I.e. target arms, head, torso?

    Do enemies drop weapons if we shoot them off?

    Its the kind of thing I always wish these TBS had..that’s what snipers would be ideal for, or good riflemen.

    And using explosives on someone to daze them, blow aliens to actual bits, etc..

    But I guess I would just be asking too much of a good thing.

    Still, someone go make that kind of game eventually please. :P

  32. wodin says:

    I’d love to see everything you mentioned, however In doubt it’s in game. I love th sound of it so far but the things mentioned above are the sort of things I really want to see in a game like this. Target the aliens legs to slow it down for a stun or immobilize it, limbs being able to be shot\blown off, shooting arm’s so they drop the weapon and then have to spend time picking it up, plus they can’t shoot aswell afterwards. This sort of detail belongs in games at this scale.

  33. Kadayi says:

    Missing ‘ooh er’ I believe.

  34. Penicillin says:

    Has it been confirmed if this will use Steamworks? Please, oh please, say yes. Or at least anything other than Games for Windows Live…

    Also, this is sounding better and better with every interview–keep up the good work, Jake!

  35. TormDK says:

    As always, the release date is too far away!

    But looks like something I’ll have to pre-order a CE or Deluxe edition of if it becomes available!

  36. kwokkang says:

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  37. Tomhai says:

    here’s a plee for one more “option” – option to turn the UI from neon blu/green to something … mmm … nice looking. I dont know why, but that neon thing is a total mood killer for me. At least the game is not the shade of blue like BF3 but still the color of menus just irritates me… really… no joke.

  38. squareking says:

    I just want this to terrify me.

  39. Unfettered says:

    Not many good games coming out in 2012 or 2013 that I’ve heard of, this is one of the few I’m watching very intently. That they get the “make it an option” mantra tells me a lot about how the actual game will play as well.

  40. AlKaPwn says:

    Things I’m crossing my fingers for:
    Chrysalids
    multiplayer vs

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